Remembering The Roses

It is hard to believe it is four years today since I gave Leonard roses, and he put them on the stage for his final Kilmainham concert. It was a magical day, one forever etched in my heart, and one that will remain one of my most favourite days.
Read about this amazing day here:

https://myleonardcohenjourney.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/rose-story/

I’m blessed with having some special photographs from this day.

rose-01

Waiting, thank you Ed for this photo.

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Handing Leonard the roses, captured by Ed.

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Handing Leonard the roses, captured by James

rose-04

Overcome with emotion, and comforted by Paula. I can’t remember who took this photo.

rose-05

Leonard performing with my roses behind him. Such an amazing feeling to see them on the stage. Concert photos by myself.

rose-06

I love this photo, one of my favourites that I took during any of the concerts.

rose-07

The definition of cool. Doesn’t Leonard look great here!

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Intimacy, the kind that only Leonard could create with 10,000 people in attendance!

rose-09

I was blessed to meet Leonard again in 2013, and asked him to sign this photo. He told me  he really liked it. Yes friends, I know how lucky I am. How lucky not only for those magical days, but for the memories, and ability to relive them in my mind, and for the memories to come alive with these photos.

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Hattie Webb Valentine: Video

On Thursday, June 2nd 2016, Hattie Webb performed on the YouBloom stage, and the Bloom Festival in Dublin, and we were treated to a fine array of songs from her upcoming album. It was a real treat, and was great for me to hear these songs live for the first time.

This video, of the song Valentine, captures the first live performance of the song, and has been shared on YouTube, with kind permission from Hattie. Unfortunately there is a lot of background noise, but the wide range of Hattie’s stunning vocals can be heard, and her, as always, gorgeous harp playing.

2016-06-02 Bloom 2202016-06-02 Bloom 2352016-06-02 Bloom 259

 

 

Leonard Cohen Event Dublin 2014 Review

When it was announced that the biennial Leonard Cohen Event was to be held in Dublin for the first time in 2014 I was ecstatic and relished the chance to welcome our friends to Dublin knowing that the people on the organising committee would do a fine job.

I do confess to making an error with not having taken notes over the weekend thinking I would remember enough to fill reports for each individual day. However such was the packed programme and little sleep means some of the details have slipped my mind. I hope therefore to give one report in which I hope those who were there will appreciate it and those who weren’t can be given a flavour of what our weekend entailed. Following this report I will make posts of the photo highlights of the weekend.

Last December I received an email from Paula McCann, chairperson of the organising committee, asking me would I like to have photos exhibited at the Event along with Tony Crosbie, a fellow Irish citizen and fellow lover of photography. I replied it would be an honour and a first for me because I’d never exhibited my work before.

This exhibition allowed me and Tony to attend a special reception at the Canadian Embassy for Canadians attending the Event, Forum Moderators and performers at the Event. I was  delighted to attend this reception by the Canadian Ambassador Loyola Hearn. We were well looked after, with some delicious fancy food canapés  and wine to wash it down! Paula introduced the Ambassador and he spoke for a few minutes and I was very impressed with his speech. He spoke completely without notes about the links between Ireland and Canada and had some advice for visiting Canadians to look after their passports or they would be finding themselves back in the Embassy quicker than they could imagine!

After a lovely couple of hours chatting to old and new found friends we made our way to the Lansdowne Hotel for the official launch of the Event by Loyola Hearn, who made another off the cuff amazing speech! We were treated to a BBQ, an excellent layout of straw bales and little turf burners which created the most wonderful atmosphere. Music was supplied for the first couple of hours by The Irish House Party, who performed traditional Irish music, which was great for our visiting friends. Albert Noonan had created a DVD of his wonderful videos of Leonard’s concerts to supply the music for the rest of the night.

Already on the Thursday night I had a feeling that this weekend was going to be really special and one what will live in our memories for a long time to come. When we arrived at the hotel we registered and received our registration bags which contained a t-shirt, programme, pin from Leonard and a wristband to wear for the gatherings in Liberty Hall for quick identification purposes. There was a real piece of treasure awaiting us in the programme. Leonard being the class act he is, choose the programme of our Event to announce the name of his next album, Popular Problems, and that it will be released at the end of next month shortly after his 80th birthday. I can’t think of one other artist who treats his fans as well as Leonard does. Also in our programme was note from him saying he was happy we were gathering in this great country which has been so kind to him over the years and thanking us for our long journey.

Day 2 began with coffee in the Mansion House at 11am and a welcome by, Christy Burke  the Lord Mayor of Dublin. While he was there, his second in command, the Deputy Lord Mayor, Larry O’Toole made the speech and it was followed by him and Paula singing a couple of verses of The Dublin Saunter. After a few minutes of chatting to friends Paula approached me and told me we were all going to sing So Long Marianne to the Lord Mayor. This song always gets a wonderful reception everywhere Leonard performs it but it is extra special here in Ireland so it brought back great memories when we all sang this in the Mansion House.

After some down time with friends after the Mansion House I made my way down to Liberty Hall and helped Albert Noonan with hanging our photos for the exhibition. I was very emotional seeing my work on display like this for the very first time. It really warmed my heart when I saw strangers come up and admire the photos. Support from friends is always brilliant but seeing people who don’t know me and think I have a talent is very special to me.

It was really exciting when I saw a reporter and crew from RTE arrive to interview participants and fans. RTE is our national broadcaster and it shows the high regard that Leonard is held in here that they would want to feature our Event on the main evening news. I enjoyed watching them interviewing Dermot Bolger in front of my photos and then while I was on duty checking wrist bands at the entrance to the theatre I was able to witness them at work interviewing people as they made their way into the venue.

Soon it was time for our four Event organisers, Paula McCann, Marie Nolan, Albert Noonan and Sheila O’Mahony to officially start proceedings. The first on the amazing list of talent was a five minute audio visual of Leonard at Lissadell by Yvonne  Acheson. This was very enjoyable and brought back wonderful memories of the concert I still consider to be my favourite of all time. There was then a poetry reading and talk with Gerard Smyth  and an interview of John MacKenna by Dermot Bolger. I do confess with between checking the door and the excitement of seeing my photos on display means I am drawing a blank while I try to remember what was being discussed here but I do remember enjoying it at the time. It was one of the reasons I held back writing this review until now in the hope the the fog would clear from my brain!

After a short interval we were treated to some really funny poetry by The Poetry Divas. One of their poems, called Flaming for Leonard, borrowed some of Leonard’s song titles and lyrics and had us all in stitches laughing. The final part of the Spoken Word was an interview with Lief Bodnarchuk by Tony Clayton-Lea. I was really looking forward to this because Lief worked with Leonard on all the tours from 2008-2013 as a guitar technician for Mitch Watkins and Javier Mas. Having read Lief’s book No Ideas I didn’t really hear anything I didn’t already know but I never tire of hearing about life on the road with Leonard and it was good hearing Lief explain how he got the gig with Leonard through having worked with the band Ash. Tony Clayton-Lea was a great interviewer and credit to him for trying his best to try and get some gossip on Leonard. It wasn’t forthcoming though. One thing in common with the people close to Leonard is their loyalty and it is a trait that I greatly admire.

After a very successful opening afternoon and break for dinner it was time for the first of the three concerts of singers and musicians from Ireland and abroad. Opening musical proceedings was a  Meath man Gerry Tully. I must admit I was very apprehensive about how I would take the live music. Those who know me know I am not generally a fan of other people performing Leonard’s songs with few exceptions including Judy Collins and those who have collaborated with Leonard or indeed performed with him. However I have to say that attitude has being changed after what can only be described as an amazing weekend of outstanding performances starting with Gerry!

His opening song was Who By Fire and I was immediately impressed. His set also included Suzanne, I’m Your Man, Tower of Song and Hallelujah. The first of many Hallelujah’s we were to hear over the weekend but he did the song, and indeed all the songs justice. I have to say though it was his powerful rendition of Raglan Road that was my favourite of his performances. It gave me goosebumps and got a great cheer from the entire audience after. This song has special significance because our Event Chairperson Paula is the niece of the late, great Luke Kelly. The story of how Gerry came to be performing is actually very funny. Paula accompanied a friend to what she thought was going to be TR Dallas gig and was wondering was it him for the first few songs until he did a Leonard Cohen cover. After the gig she went up to him and said “You are not TR Dallas, so who are you?” And went on to explain about the Event and asked would he like to be one of the performers!

Our second performance on this night was by a Canadian woman, Patricia O’Callaghan and her band. I am not sure I can find a good enough adjective to describe how incredible this performance was. I think my thought I had after sums it up. If Leonard Cohen songs are going to be covered this is how it should be done. Patricia is a classically trained singer and it showed in her outstanding performances of songs such as The Window, Alexandra Leaving and what was my absolute favourite rendition of Hallelujah all weekend. I loved when she sang Dance Me To The End of Love interspersing English and Spanish and the English and French for Suzanne.

After the music ended and we were all having the post concert craic I had the pleasure of speaking with both Gerry and Patricia and thanking them for their amazing sets. Our first full day had been a resounding success and after the wonderful previous day this weekend was shaping up to be one of the most memorable of my entire life. The excitement of this day was not yet over though. RTE had initially being making their news report for their Six One News but due to other breaking news they had to move it to the Nine News instead. I was misinformed that the Event wasn’t shown and then told it was, so confused when we got back to our accommodation I checked it on my laptop and discovered not only was it shown but my photos were used as the main backdrop while the newscaster introduced the story and were shown a few times during the actual report too. Not only that but Mandy my friend and travelling companion to many of my Leonard adventures was interviewed and got a moment on air. It made for a lovely Closing Time for Day 2 of our Event.

Day 3 began with a Hidden Secrets History walking tour of Dublin with  Tina Robinson. First on the agenda was a tram journey to the first point  of interest St. Michan’s Church which dates back to 1095 and has crypts with containing mummified remains. It was interesting hearing the history of the families of those in the crypts and the tour guide at the church was an impressionable fellow with his hand signals for what happened people who were too long or had got on the wrong side of the law! While most of the approximately 70 strong group took up the option of seeing the crypts, I preferred to stay where it was bright and the ground was even. I may visit again when there are less people around. Unfortunately due to time restraints I had to leave the tour at this point so to have time for lunch before heading back down to Liberty Hall for the afternoon events where I was again on the door checking wrist bands. I explained this to Tina and thanked her for what I had already seen.

The afternoon session this day was the Open Mic with fans performing Leonard’s songs and hosted by Darby, one of the Forum moderators. Proceedings were opened with a comedy sketch by Michael Wolkind. He was hilarious and part of his sketch was to give away some Leonard Cohen t-shirts to some lucky people in the audience. The first singer to perform was Don Cummer, partner to Paula, and his first song was his own version of Memories with added lyrics and story of how he first met Paula, four years previously at the Event when it was held in Krakow in 2010. I had heard this before but it was great to hear it again. He also performed a great version of  Sisters of Mercy.

There were lots of other great performers including a stunning performance from Claudia of Take This Waltz and I especially enjoyed Henning, another of our Forum moderators putting to music to some of Leonard’s poetry rather than just singing covers. At this stage the lack of sleep was starting to make me dizzy so I had to go get fresh air and coffee so had to miss the last couple of performers of the Open Mic. It was another successful afternoon.

For our concert on the Saturday we had one band, Jack Healy and The Van Diemens. Up to this point the music had being mellow and gentle. This was about to change with a full on rock performance. This was welcome to my weary body and it energised me! This concert was covers of what Jack called the holy trinity of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Nick Cave. I confess to knowing little of Caves music and less of Waits. However I really enjoyed Jack and The Van Diemens interpretations of all the songs. Highlights of Leonard’s songs for me included Tower of Song and a wonderful solo version of Anthem. Someone commented after, that this is what Leonard’s songs would sound like if they were covered by Nick Cave! I thought that a very good description.  I also really enjoyed his Cave covers, Are You the One that I’ve Been Waiting For and Mercy Seat.  Jack Healy is an excellent front man so I was amazed when talking to him after he says he usually is the bass player in any his bands. He told us a great story during the concert about how Mary Coughlan, a well-known Irish singer attended a Leonard Cohen concert with her daughter. After the concert she asked her daughter what she thought. Her daughters reply was it was like going to mass and having the mass said by Jesus!

Day 4 began with a viewing of Leonard’s last concert of the 2013 tour in Auckland. To have the chance to witness this concert was so special to me. The viewing was in Screen Cinema so we had a nice big screen and surround sound for the music. Leonard’s production manager, Ed Sanders, put this DVD together for us and it must be stated the fine job that he did. Such was the quality we found ourselves forgetting it was in a cinema we were watching this and every now and then there was spontaneous clapping at the end of songs. What I especially enjoyed was seeing close ups of the band and moments I normally don’t see at the concerts when more often than not my eyes are on Leonard unless it is during an actual solo! During Alexandra Leaving the DVD stopped. It turned out that while we were engrossed in the concert, outside a thunderstorm raged and played havoc with the cinema systems for a couple of minutes. I explained to Jarkko after that the DVD player just couldn’t handle the beauty of Sharon’s voice and sure there is a crack in everything.

It was all too soon time for our final concert of the weekend in Liberty Hall. On this night we had Tír Na nÓg,  and closing out the Event Ali & the Thieves. However before the music we listened to the organisers of the two Events for 2016 speak of what we can expect in their cities. First we heard from Dr. Kim Solez and Mallory Chipman who spoke about Edmonton in Canada and then from Wybe and Willy Lageveen speaking about Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Tír Na nÓg are an Irish duo, Leo O’Kelly and Sonny Condell who have been performing together since the late 1960’s. This should suggest I would be familiar with them but no, I wasn’t. In a break with tradition over the weekend they did their own music with only one Cohen cover, True Love Leaves No Traces. I absolutely love this song but hate what Phil Spector did to Leonard’s beautiful lyrics with his so called Wall of Sound. So hearing a stripped back version by accomplished singers was great. I also enjoyed hearing their own songs and I must say I will be paying them more attention in the future!

After a short interval our final performance  began with Ali and her band playing what she calls Leonard Cohen Koans. I am not experienced enough to explain that properly so I am borrowing the description from our programme: “Leonard Cohen Koans is a meditation on the man behind the myth through his poetry, prose and song.” It incorporated Ali telling interesting stories and then her and the band performing their own versions of Leonard’s songs.  I already knew the amazing voice Ali had having seen her perform at our fan dinner in New York last year. This was even better though. I especially loved the introduction to Avalanche. She spoke of  how a man sees a tiger and starts running and the tiger follows. The man grabs a root vine and flings himself over the edge of a crevice. The tiger is still above him and when he looks down he sees another tiger. Then two mice, one black, one white start gnaw at the top of the vine. From the corner of his eye he saw a luscious wild strawberry and holding the vine with one hand  he reached out with the other hand. Ali then started singing the song. Other highlights were If It Be Your Will and Lady Midnight which was our last song of the night and indeed the whole weekend!

To end proceedings Jarkko Arjatsalo and Michael Wolkind went on stage to thank our wonderful organisers, presenting Paula with flowers and giving them all a voucher for a meal in a restaurant to convey our thanks for the amazing weekend we just had. I always knew this would be a special weekend and it proved to be even better than I could have imagined. I enjoyed a couple of drinks in the company of everyone at the post craic in the bar of the Liberty Hall Theatre and saying goodbye to old and new friends was hard but we know we will all meet again. It is so long for now but not forever. Thank you so much to all the people who made this weekend possible.

Gwen Langford 2014

 

The Webb Sisters @ Whelan’s Dublin May 5th 2014

Leonard Cohen is renowned for choosing exemplary musicians and singers to accompany him on tour and people who are amazing in their own right so when I am given the chance to see them perform I take it!

I was very happy when The Webb Sisters announced they were going to bless us with seeing them in concert again. Leonard is on the mark when he describes them as angels and sublime.

It was a very lucky decision that we decided to queue because when we entered the venue we discovered only a couple of rows of seats! We gratefully took some right in front of where the ladies would be playing. It wasn’t long before the venue was packed with enthusiastic fans ready to witness and hear some great music.

Support on the night was supplied by Sam Semple. His songs were easy listening and while he was good I do admit I was getting impatient and wanting to hear the ladies perform. I did change my attitude and paid more attention when he revealed he co-wrote the song Better and then performed a great rendition of this song. A few years back I had seen the other writer of this song, Tom Baxter in concert and have fond memories of that having been a great night. It was a funny moment when Sam started singing this song and someone shouted from the back, “no way”, and he replied, “way!”

We had a short wait after Semple’s set before the ladies appeared and the audience were cheering and shouting and it seemed a somewhat rowdy crowd for the kind of performance that awaited us! However when the ladies did take the stage one could hear a pin drop during the actual songs!

The Webb Sisters are known for being amazing harmonious singers and they did not disappoint on Monday night. Opening with a stunning cover of Always On My Mind, it set the tone for a night of excellence which included songs such as Torches, 1000 Stars, Missing Person and It May Be Spring. Their voices are their main instrument of sound and they compliment the voices with Charley on guitar and some nifty foot work for percussion and Hattie alternating between harp and mandolin.

There was great banter between the two ladies with many fun moments on the night. It was very funny when they introduced The Anchor with Charley making some sign language gestures to explain the meaning of the song, love, love lost and betrayal. I also found it highly amusing when they were talking about having pets and I revealed my friends have a cat called Leonard. I’m sure most of the audience are fans of Leonard Cohen so this went down well and then one of my friends gave the cats full name “Leonard Cohen MacLeod” which the ladies loved!

We were treated to two Leonard Cohen covers on the night. The song they perform at every Leonard Cohen concert, If It Be Your Will and also Show Me The Place. Like every song performed on the night these sounded amazing but If It Be Your Will is a song that will always be special to me and one which I find impossible to keep me eyes from leaking. Between the sublime lyrics and the ladies harmonies it is so beautiful and moving.

Before this tour began the ladies on their Facebook page offered to hand embroider the initials of the first person to reply for each concert on a Webb Sisters t-towel. During the concert Hattie asked did we have “James Nolan” in the house as not only was he the first person to reply for this concert, but that it was also his birthday. James is a friend of mine so I was very pleased to witness this and he was very moved when Hattie gave him the t-towel and a couple of postcards and then the ladies and the entire audience sang happy birthday to him.

For the encores the ladies like to move into the audience and perform a couple of songs a cappella but due to the large crowd this was not an option on Monday night so instead the performed one song at each side of the stage. Their voices are amazing and while their instruments enhance them hearing these wonderful voices without instruments is special.

After the concert the ladies generously posed for photos and signed memorabilia. It was great seeing them in concert and chatting to them after. They had said in the concert they hope to be back next year. I told them they don’t need to wait that long!

Cohenising Dublin Beaches

“It’s just the way it changes, like the shoreline and the sea” LC

On Friday 12th of July I spent the day on two of the beaches in Dublin, Killiney and Dollymount and couldn’t resist drawing Unified Hearts into the sand at the sea edge and was inspired to do so by the above lyrics from Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye.

Killiney Beach 1

Killiney Beach  2

Seeing as this one stony beach and I'd problems finding a sandy patch to draw the heart, I decided to decorate the heart with stones.

Seeing as this one stony beach and I’d problems finding a sandy patch to draw the heart, I decided to decorate the heart with stones.

Killiney Beach 4

Killiney Beach  5

Dollymount Beach 1

Dollymount Beach

 

Counting down the days to Brussels

While counting down the days to Brussels and seeing Leonard live again I’ve been editing a couple of photos to pass the time. Top photo edited using Paint.net and the bottom two using an on-line editor called Photogramio.

Giving Leonard Roses, Thanks James Nolan for the original photo.

Giving Leonard Roses, Thanks James Nolan for the original photo.

RCMH NYC

RCMH NYC

So Long Las Vegas. Taken the morning after the final concert of the 2010 World Tour.

So Long Las Vegas. Taken the morning after the final concert of the 2010 World Tour.

 

And then this morning while feeling depressed knowing loads of friends are going to the concert in London I instantly cheered up with these pendants arrived all the way from Toronto. Thanks to my friend Judy for the wonderful gift. My photos here don’t do them justice as they look great.

2 gorgeous pendants of me meeting Leonard in Ghent and Dublin. Bottom image is what the backs on both look like.

2 gorgeous pendants of me meeting Leonard in Ghent and Dublin. Bottom image is what the backs on both look like.

Hallelujah Video and my Hallelujah story

Here is a video I have made of Leonard singing Hallelujah using an audio file from the November 29th 2012 show in Montreal and using photos from only this song that I took at concerts in Ghent, Dublin, Montreal and Toronto in 2012.

When I am asked by people my favourite Leonard Cohen song and I answer with Hallelujah I sometimes get the reaction of raised eyebrows. It is sometimes conceived that answering with a major artists most well-known song as your favourite as a sign that you are not someone who has a great knowledge of the artist in question. I’d like to think while I don’t know everything about Leonard’s music that I do have a good knowledge of most of his work as a singer-songwriter.

So why Hallelujah? Well I will now attempt to answer that question. The first time I heard Hallelujah and indeed any of Leonard’s songs was the Jeff Buckley version of the song. It was August 23rd 2004 and almost midnight. I was listening to the radio, almost asleep when the DJ announced that as it was the 10th anniversary of the release of Jeff’s album Grace he would play his version of the song. I’ll never forget this moment as long as I live. I remember thinking how amazing the song was and it gave me goosebumps. While the DJ had said it was a cover he didn’t mention who the original singer and writer were so as soon as the song finished playing I picked up the phone and rang him and asked him. He said it is Leonard Cohen, adding knowing I was (and still am) a huge fan of soft rock that I would not like Leonard Cohen. I told him well I loved this song! For me at that time while I appreciated good lyrics the music was the most important, I had to enjoy the music before I could appreciate the lyrics. Hallelujah was the start of that scale changing for me and I now find myself drawn more and more to well written lyrics. Of course the music is still very important too.

I then made it my mission to get my hands on a copy of Leonard singing this song on CD. The DJ not a fan of Leonard’s refused to play his version for me. This proved a tricky mission. At the time I used to get most of my albums in either HMV or an on-line music store called CDWOW. CDWOW didn’t stock any Leonard Cohen albums at the time and while HMV did have some of Leonard’s albums it proved tricky getting one with this song on it. After a bit of searching I finally got my hands on a copy of The Essential Leonard Cohen in a HMV store. As soon as I got home I straight away listened to Hallelujah. On the first listen to Leonard singing this song I admit I was very taken aback as it is so different to Jeff’s version. I immediately listened to it again and something inside me clicked and I instantly felt I was listening to what in my opinion was the greatest song ever written and I still feel like this.

Trying to pinpoint exactly why I felt like this and still do is difficult as I’m not sure I even know the answer myself. I just knew that the lyrics and melody to my ears were just magical. I see Hallelujah as a conflict between religious beliefs and human desires. Trying to pick a favourite line from the song is impossible for me but two of my favourites are “Baby I have been here before I know this room, I’ve walked this floor” and “I did my best, it wasn’t much I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch”. I often quote these lines in conversation as well as many other lines from the work of Leonard.

After listening to Hallelujah on repeat a few times I went back to the start of the album and listened start to finish. How wrong that DJ proved to be. I instantly loved everything I was hearing and on that first listen the other song to really hit me was So Long Marianne. This song is very close in my affections to Hallelujah to this day. I couldn’t believe it had taken me around 27 years to discover Leonard Cohen and his music but maybe I wasn’t ready to discover him before this. I have mentioned to people that I discovered Leonard and his songs at a time in my life when I most needed it. I was going through a dark time and slowly listening every night to his songs I felt myself coming out the other side.

A few months after getting The Essential I finally found a copy of Various Positions in HMV and slowly starting adding all his CDs to my collection. When the 2008 world tour was announced the Dublin concerts were already sold out and I hadn’t yet discovered the Leonard Cohen Forum so put not having a ticket down to bad luck. I never have and never will use a ticket tout to get tickets to a concert. I’d signed up for notifications after this so I was finally able to witness the magic in 2009 for the first time. Hearing Hallelujah sang live for the first time was special moment for me. After the Lissadell concert in 2010 I was heart-broken to think I might never see Leonard live again so for the first time in my life I left Ireland and went alone to see him in Katowice, Poland and also to Las Vegas for the final two concerts of the tour. I’d never gone to see the same artist two nights in a row before but then Leonard isn’t like anyone to me.

When I met Leonard in Las Vegas I asked him to sign Hallelujah lyrics for me and on the plane home the following day while writing a review of the concerts I listened to Live in London on my mp3 player. As soon as Hallelujah came on I was in convulsions of tears. This song had literally changed my life forever. It had taken me 32 years to travel outside Ireland and had I never heard that song that day who knows what path my life would be on. Since seeing Leonard in Poland and Las Vegas I’ve also seen him in Belgium and of course the dream trip to Canada. Not only have I witnessed the magic of Leonard many times but have seen some wonderful places completely different to Ireland.  Of course when everyone and anyone started covering the song I would have heard it at a later date anyway but that doesn’t mean I would have been able to hear the magic underneath to same level as I had done with Jeff’s cover which inspired me to find the original and for me the best. That night started me on a wonderful adventure in terms of first and most importantly discovering Leonard and then discovering the Forum and through it and Facebook connecting with many other wonderful people, some now who are my closest friends. I say Hallelujah for the song and Hallelujah for Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen Kilmainham Concerts Review

When it was announced that the legendary Leonard Cohen would be gracing the stage in Kilmainham once again I was very excited as I had missed his first series of concerts in the venue in 2008. It was those concerts which had convinced Leonard that there was still an audience for his songs, so for him to be returning there was something I was going to cherish, and it was an easy quick decision to go to all four concerts. I’d made a personal vow after having to miss the 2nd concert in Lissadell in 2010 that I would never miss a concert by Leonard in Ireland again.

I am often asked how can I go to multiple concerts of the same artist but for me each of Leonard’s concerts are unique and every Leonard concert is special so I just knew I’d enjoy each and every minute of these four concerts. A lot has happened on my Cohen journey since that night in Lissadell including meeting him in Las Vegas and Ghent, so to witness the magic in my own country again was something I really relished.

Heading into the first concert on Tuesday night I was very impressed with the organisers for having a an archway for us to walk through with the words “Everybody Knows That The Dice Are Loaded” written on it with Leonard’s name and unified hearts at either end. Only in Ireland would we get a welcome like that! In fact I was impressed with the layout of the venue with nice placements of coloured flags and two huge hangings either side of the stage welcoming Leonard, one with the immortal line from Anthem “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” and the other a line from the Book of Longing, ” You go your way, I’ll go your way too”.

Every night has its own individual highlights and for me it kept getting better and better as the week went on. Tuesday was special for being the first night.  I don’t think any song would ever surpass Hallelujah as a personal favourite moment at a Leonard concert and I’ll never tire of watching Leonard sing this song live and every night last week it was as sublime as ever. On the first night my other personal highlights included Light As The Breeze which we also heard the following night. So Long Marianne is always a highlight as I love the sing-a-long and adoration from the audience for Leonard. It is plain to see everyone on the stage also enjoys this song live. Famous Blue Raincoat and Bird On The Wire are also personal favourites as in the afore-mentioned Anthem where Leonard introduces each band member in turn. It is something I never tire of hearing and I got amused looks from my neighbours on the final night when I was mouthing the words as Leonard spoke them.

A slight irritant during the first night was the constant flow of people walking up to the stage to try to take photos and while I do try to let nothing distract me from the magic on stage it was hard to block this out because my seat was beside the aisle, and it was blocking my line of vision. However I did find it funny when during Take This Waltz the stewards were trying to remove people and the then started waltzing with the stewards!

Night two had a different feel for me and my seats were now for the remaining concerts in the centre block so no flow of people constantly blocking the view! I was also further back the second night but this allowed me to witness a gorgeous sunset, and also see the stars while I listened to the magic on stage. The set list remained almost the same with the exception of the inclusion of The Webb Sisters singing If It Be Your Will and exclusion of I Can’t Forget. However as I stated no two Leonard concerts are ever the same for me, and he could sing the same songs every night and I’d still be happy. Of course it is great to hear different songs performed and I do have favourites I’ve never heard him sing, however when every song every night is performed to perfection I find that I am never in a position to complain about what songs are performed!

Before the concert at sound check I and some friends spoke with Leonard before he went in to do the sound check so I was feeling a lot more emotional on this night than I was on the first. Sisters of Mercy was the first song to bring the tears as I love the line “If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn, they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.” Leonard sang this song every night in Dublin which pleased me as it isn’t one he always sings. It was a beautiful moment for me when during Night Comes On there were stars above us. This is another of my favourites and I am pleased to see that it is becoming a regular at the concerts now as it was only performed once on the previous tour.

While I mention many times how brilliant Leonard is I must state that compliment is extended to everyone on stage. I am loving the addition of Alexandru Bublitchi to the band. The violin is an instrument that really compliments Leonard’s songs. Mitch Watkins as lead guitarist is excellent and Javier Mas is always sublime on his solos on Who By Fire and the Gypsy’s Wife. I adore The Webb Sisters singing If It Be Your Will and it almost always has me in floods of tears and I am really enjoying hearing them perform Coming Back To You on this tour. It is a lovely touch having the bass player Roscoe Beck stand behind them with the upright bass for this song. As the musical director for Leonard’s concert he is normally positioned to the right of Leonard where Leonard will notify him of any song changes and he then spreads the word. Neil Larsen as always was amazing on his solos during Hallelujah and I love that on this tour Leonard brings the entire band to the centre of the stage for The Partisan and we see Neil playing the accordion.

As usual for the encores we all raced to the stage but we couldn’t enter the front row, because in attendance was our President Michael D Higgins. I’ve always being a huge admirer and had met him on the campaign trail for the presidency. I have to say I did find it amusing thinking of him watching and listening to Leonard perform Democracy and I’m Your Man in the main part of the show. For the encores I was initially standing at the end of that section of the front row but an over enthusiastic woman beside me was banging me against the side of the chair so I asked the person at the end of the second row if he wouldn’t mind could I stand in front of him and seeing my discomfort he kindly allowed me to do so. This made for a very memorable moment for me when after First We Take Manhattan those sitting stood and the President sat first and looked along the row of seats and on seeing me started waving and smiling. I was in complete shock that he actually remembered me from a previous brief meeting at a debate during the presidential campaign. I certainly wasn’t expecting that! At the end of the concert I went and shook his hand. This made for a very special ending to the second concert for me and I spent all of Famous Blue Raincoat and If It Be Your Will in tears!

After speaking with Leonard before the second sound check and wanting other people be able to have the precious memories of a moment with him I just shook his hand on Friday and then went to find a good spot to see and hear the sound check. While a friend and I were watching through a hole in the fence the wind came along and blew the fence on top of us. We found it highly amusing that the wind gave us a lovely clear view but alas the fence was soon repaired. Having missed the sound check through losing track of time the first day and having heard Leonard had sung The Guests I was delighted when he sang it again. This song has yet to be sung on the tour or indeed any concert I’ve attended. We also heard some tour favourites but special for me was hearing Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye. The last time I had heard Leonard sing this song was at the concert in Katowice in 2010. I was very happy when the song was then sung during the last two Kilmainham concerts! Also sung in the sound check on Friday was Anyhow, an interesting different version we’d never heard before.

The concert on Friday provided me with a great view of the stage in the 5th row so no more distractions from those who were there to wander around and I could concentrate fully on Leonard and the band. It was a happy occasion with many smiles coming from the stage and as always many wonderful performances. Sharon Robinson was sublime on Alexandra Leaving. The more I hear her singing this song the more I enjoy it. As Leonard always states in his band introductions Sharon has co-wrote many of his great songs including this one. She is an expert at crafting wonderful tunes to match the words of Leonard and I’ve always valued her contribution to his work. Different Sides made its first Kilmainham concert appearance as did Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye which pleased me no end. I was also pleased to hear the only performance of the week of I Tried To Leave You as in the song every band member has their own solo during this song and I love when Rafael Gayol throws his drumstick in the air before catching it. I have yet to see him drop it! He is often hidden from view from the audience behind his drums but his contribution is immense as it takes a special talent to be a drummer in a Leonard Cohen concert and I love Leonard’s description of him as the master of precision in the band introductions. We all loved when before Take This Waltz Leonard quoted something which included the line “Let my people dance” This was obviously a comment to the stewards to allow us dance in the aisles during this song as we made our way to the stage for the encores.  I’ve since discovered the origins of these words are from the song Go Down Moses which Leonard edited to suit the occasion changing the words “Let My People Go” to “Let My People Dance” It was a touching moment from Leonard to all of us which he repeated the following night.

All too soon it was the final day of Leonard’s Dublin concerts. Even though I consider every Leonard concert perfection last week each night got better and better and for me the final concert was the best but that is partly due to personal reasons. I had decided the day before I would present Leonard with two red roses before the sound check from me and my friend who was always with me when I met him but as she lives in Scotland she had to miss the final two concerts. After Leonard had spent time with other people I gave them to him thanking him for the memories of a wonderful week. During the sound check while taking photos over the fence I noticed them on the stage. I was so touched by this and was completely amazed on entering the venue that night that they were still there along with a gift of a statue of Cúchulainn from another fan. After taking a photo of it on entering the venue I went for a walk in a daze only to meet Charlie Bird, Ireland’s best known news reporter and one I’ve always had a huge respect for. I told him this mentioning documentaries he had made and he kindly posed for a photo. Other well known people in attendance during the week included Glen Hansard and Niall Stokes.

For the concert my seat was in the centre which was perfect as it allowed me get a lot of photos of Leonard performing my favourite songs with my roses in the background of them. It is hard for me to convey in words how special to me this is. My own personal delight aside this concert was amazing and for me it is a very close second favourite to that wonderful night in Lissadell. The crowd seemed a lot more respectful or maybe it was just my position but I noticed very little movement from the audience. The setlist was very similar to the previous night but given Leonard’s act of kindness I was an emotional wreck and spent most of the first half in tears. Songs like Who By Fire which I normally never shed tears for had them streaming down my face. Leonard and his band were in as usual top form and like he promises at the start of every concert he gave it everything he had.

After Leonard performs I’m Your Man he normally sings Hallelujah but on Saturday night he had a treat for us between these songs and we heard a wonderful playful version of Anyhow (different from the version sung in sound check the previous day). This was the tour premiere of this song and indeed first ever performance in concert as it is from his latest album Old Ideas. On the album one would never associate it as a song to be laughed at, but between the twinkle in Leonard’s eyes and the way he sang it we had to laugh. It made for a wonderful memory for the final concert in Ireland this year. Before singing Anyhow Leonard thanked those of us who had attended all four concerts, those who travelled long distances and the people of Dublin for their hospitality. Even though he is a world famous singer/songwriter and poet Leonard remains humble and always appreciates the applause and respect he receives.

Hallelujah following this was amazing as always and I savoured every second of hearing my favourite song live for the last time for a while. As I was in the middle of my row I had asked everyone beside me to allow me move out at the start of Take This Waltz so I could make my way to the front for the encores while we stood waiting we were told we could only stand if we were actually waltzing by one of the stewards to our amusement and of course we obliged. We then took the coveted barrier positions for the encores and for what was my favourite So Long Marianne of the week. Everyone on stage was smiling as we all were backing singers to Leonard. The final song on the night and of our magical four nights in Kilmainham was Closing Time and how special this was when Leonard invited members of his crew to join him and the band on stage at the end of the song. It was a wonderful gesture which to my knowledge hasn’t happened since the final concerts of the previous tour in Las Vegas.

And there the journey ends for now. As I reflect on what was a wonderful week I continue to remind myself how grateful I am to be on this planet at the same time as Leonard Cohen.